Update (June 11): This article has been updated to reflect that Greg Glassman has since stepped down from his role as CEO of CrossFit.
Reebok, one of the biggest brands under sportswear giant Adidas, has just severed its ties with fitness company CrossFit, after its founder and CEO sparked outrage tweeting “It’s Floyd-19” in response to another tweet on racism being a public health crisis. Glassman’s insensitive comments led to a wave of athletes and brands also dropping partnerships with CrossFit. While Glassman and CrossFit have made attempts to apologise, the firm’s history of discriminatory and insensitive behaviour will no doubt make other brands rethink any future collaborations. The controversy ultimately led to Glassman’s resignation.
Reebok has just ended its exclusive 10-year deal as the primary sponsor and licensee of CrossFit apparel. The sportswear behemoth said in a statement that the company had originally planned to discuss renewing the partnership later this year, but “in light of recent events” the brand will no longer be working with CrossFit henceforth.
It referred to the founder and CEO of CrossFit Greg Glassman’s recent tweet on Sunday (June 7), when he wrote “It’s Floyd-19” as a direct reply from a post from the Institute for Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that highlighted racism and discrimination as a public health issue.
Glassman was referring to George Floyd, the man who died after nearly 9 minutes of being held in a chokehold position by Minneapolis police officers on May 25 sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racism toward African Americans.
The CrossFit founder was at the same time referring to Covid-19, disease causing the ongoing pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 people globally. It was revealed in the autopsy report that Floyd himself tested positive for Covid-19 almost 8 weeks before his death.
Other brands and athletes have also criticised and ended partnerships with CrossFit following Glassman’s tone-deaf tweet, including famed professional CrossFit athlete Rich Froning and Australian Olympian Tia-Clair Toomey. According to the BBC, almost 227 company affiliates are now in the process of cutting ties.
One of these firms is Petworth Fitness, which changed its company name to CrossFit Petworth two years ago. But even before Glassman’s tweet, the company had decided to begin distancing itself from CrossFit in an open letter that spoke out against CrossFit’s silence and inaction on racism, even as a host of companies publicly took a stand for the Black Lives Matter movement following Floyd’s death.
In an open letter to CrossFit, Petworth said: “The inaction of CrossFit regarding anti-racism work is unacceptable, and as a result, we are choosing to disaffiliate from CrossFit.”
“For a brand that has preached about being ‘for all,’ the deafening silence on current and past issues of racism tell us all we need to know.”
Recent events aren’t the first instance of condemnation of CrossFit’s racist behaviour. In 2013, the firm was called out for sharing a post on Facebook written by “racial realists” – people who falsely believe there is a scientific basis for white supremacy. CrossFit had also been widely criticised in March this year for a post that read: “Some guy eats a bat halfway across the world and now I can’t go to CrossFit.”
CrossFit has tried to salvage its damaged reputation. The CrossFit Games, the company’s annual competition, released a statement asking “What can we do to better serve the Black Community in CrossFit?”, but for many athletes, the message came too little too late.
Glassman also released an half-hearted apology on CrossFit’s official Twitter account, defending his comments saying that he had “made a mistake by the words I chose,” and reiterating that “It was a mistake, not racist but a mistake.”
After a few days where hundreds of partnerships, endorsements and affiliated gyms continued to cut ties with CrossFit, Glassman ultimately issued an announcement to step down from his position as CEO. He will be replaced by Dave Castro, the director of CrossFit Games.
Lead image courtesy of CrossFit / Twitter / designed by Green Queen Media.